Burundi

Burundi is a landlocked country in the African Great Lakes region of East Africa. The Twa, Hutu and Tutsi peoples have lived in Burundi for at least 500 years. Burundi has been plagued by ethnic conflict between the majority Hutus and the Tutsis, who tend to dominate the government and army—but are only 14 percent of the population. A 2003 cease-fire and new government offered hope for peace, however this peace came to a shattering end in 2015 when President Nkurunziza decided to run for what many Burundians believed to be a constitution breaking third term in office. Violence broke out before the election, and has escalated since. The entire country is now considered a no go area for travellers.

Burundi is one of the most eroded and deforested countries in all of tropical Africa. The cutting of forests for fuel is uncontrolled despite legislation requiring permits. Only about 5.7% of Burundi’s total land area is protected.

Burundi is one of the world’s poorest countries, owing in part to its landlocked geography, poor legal system, lack of economic freedom, lack of access to education, and the proliferation of HIV/AIDS. The World Happiness Report 2016 update ranked Burundi as the world’s least happy nation.

Bujumbura’s Lake Tanganyika beaches are some of the best urban beaches of any landlocked country in Africa. A small spring at Kasumo, 115km southeast of Bujumbura might be the southernmost source of the River Nile. Drumming is an important part of Burundi’s cultural heritage. The world-famous Royal Drummers of Burundi have performed for over 40 years.

A typical Burundian meal consists of sweet potatoes, corn, and peas. Due to the expense, meat is eaten only a few times per month. Recipes I came across included Marahagwe (bean and vegetable stew), Ibiharage (fried beans) and the somewhat strange pairing of banana with beans. I opted to make date & banana loaf, which although it was a little dry, the flavour was pretty good.  Untraditionally, I did however serve it with clotted cream as I felt it was too dry on it’s own.

Rating: 6/10

Serves 8
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 30 mins

260g butter, melted
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
4 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 large or 2 small bananas
1 & 1/2 cup chopped dates
2 tbsp powdered sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 175c.
Beat 230g of the melted butter with the sugar until well blended.
Add the eggs one at a time mixing well before adding the second one.
Add the flour, salt and baking powder and mix well.
Line a loaf tin with parchment paper.
Spread half of the mix in the bottom of the tin and level the surface with your fingertips.
Add the sliced bananas.
Remove pits from dates, chop coarsely and pout on top of the bananas.
Cover with the remaining cake mix.
Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown in an oven.
Remove from the oven and brush the top of the cake with the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter.
Sprinkle the surface with a mixture of powdered sugar and cinnamon.

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São Tomé and Príncipe

São Tomé and Príncipe, is Africa’s second smallest country in terms of population c. 194,000, after The Seychelles.  It is formed of 2 islands in the Gulf of Guinea, close to the equator and they are part of an extinct volcanic range featuring striking rock, coral formations, rainforests and beaches.  It is home to much wildlife including five species of turtle.
It is the smallest Portuguese speaking nation in the world, “Leve leve” (Easy, easy) it a mellow ‘hello’ and the motto of Sao Tome.
Cocoa is the main crop and it represents 95% of the country’s export.
It was on the island of Principe where the first experimental verification of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity happened in an experiment by Arthur Stanley Eddington in 1919.
The cuisine is based on tropical root crops, plantains, and bananas, with fish as the most common source of protein. The vegetables that are eaten consist of gathered indigenous greens that are cooked in red palm oil.  They have a famous TV chef – João Carlos Silva, who presents “Na Roça com os Tachos” – In the Roça with the Pots.
Some recipes I came across include Fish Calulu (stew) , Chicken with coffee sauce and Rancho de terra (beans & rice).  I opted for Sonhos de Bananas (banana doughnuts) served with chocolate sauce.

Rating: 8/10

4 bananas, peeled
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
Sugar & 1/2 tsp cinnamon mix
Oil for frying

Mash the bananas with a fork and mix with the sugar and flour. Whisk together milk and egg then stir in the banana mixture to form a batter. Heat oil in a deep fryer or saucepan to 350 F. Pour batter a tablespoon at a time into hot oil and fry for about 5 minutes, turning halfway through cooking, until the doughnuts are golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve dusted with the cinnamon sugar & chocolate sauce.